Ultimate Eggplant Parmesean

I desperately love eggplant, but have struggled to get the right texture when I cook it at home. This eggplant parmesean is very labor-intensive, but the payoff is silky, luscious eggplant. From the carefully peeled eggplant halves to the homemade tomato sauce and breadcrumbs, this is definitely a Sunday afternoon endeavor, so make sure to leave yourself a few hours. The upside to the time you spend cooking is this recipe makes a ton of food - one piece is a meal for one person, so it lasted Sky and I several days. This recipe is from Bon Appetit, with almost no adjustments needed (I added some red pepper flakes for heat and I didn't add any salt. If you want salt, use it to season the tomato sauce and the uncooked eggplant where it says to season with pepper).

Time to cook: at least two hours
Makes eight servings

3/4 cup, plus 2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
10 garlic cloves (2 finely chopped, 8 whole)
2 tbsp tomato paste
28 oz. can whole peeled plum tomatoes
Black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
4 medium eggplants, cut in half lengthwise
8 sprigs fresh oregano
12 oz fresh mozzarella (NB: Sky and I splurged a little for good cheese, and it was seriously worth it), torn into bite-size pieces
1 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs (super fast recipe: lightly toast pieces four or five slices of fresh bread, rip into pieces and then pulse in a food processor)
3 oz fresh parmesean, grated
- In a medium pan, heat one-quarter cup of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until they get soft and starts to brown, around six minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook for about one minute.
- Add the tomato paste and mix constantly for two minutes.
- Add the whole tomatoes one at a one, ripping them into small pieces with your hands. Season with pepper and red pepper flakes.
- Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat and cover partially. Let the sauce simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set the sauce aside.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Peel the eggplant halves, leaving a strip of skin about one-inch thick around the top (this keeps the eggplant together even as it gets super soft).
- Line two baking sheets with foil. Rub half a cup of olive oil over the eggplant halves. Lay them cut-side down on the baking sheets and arrange the whole garlic cloves and oregano sprigs around them. Season with pepper.
- Cover the baking sheets with foil and bake for about 45 minutes, until the eggplant is tender.
- Once the eggplants are done roasting, move them (plus the oregano sprigs and garlic) to foil-lined shallow baking dishes, with the cut side up this time.
- In a small bowl, toss the fresh breadcrumbs with the rest of the olive oil.
- Spoon the tomato sauce over the eggplant halves, and then top with mozzarella, breadcrumbs and parmesean.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and a little browned on top. Serve hot.

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